If you look down the long path from a prototype to a finished game, you might think that next to development and playtesting, art direction and design, and then running a successful Kickstarter project, shipping is but a lesser detail, easily left out to be ironed out later. And you’d be horribly wrong.
The simplest way to look at it is this: all of your work will go to waste, if your backers end up with none of that great gameplay and stunning art you’ve been trying to charm them with – and you end up with no money to proceed. Here’s a few simple tricks that will help you avoid such a predicament.
1. Know their stuff
The first thing to do is get familiar with all the basic shipping information for your region of the world – and then cross-reference this with regions you might end up shipping to. It’s actually quite easy, although somewhat time-consuming, which is why many newbie creators disregard the necessity to deal with this step of the process early on, regarding it as busywork that can be left for later. That is a big mistake.
To know the basics simply go online and check your local postal services. Find out the basic shipping rates for different weight and make sure there isn’t anything to pay extra for specific sizes. All of this should come with a detailed list of prices for different regions which you can either download or copy into a spreadsheet. Make no mistake, harvesting this data and then keeping it updated is crucial to successful shipping.
2. Know your stuff
Rough estimates are among the fiercest foes of a newbie project creator. Especially, since (having already a lot of work) we are often prone to thinking that since something is difficult to do now (like weighing a product that does not exist), it may be left for later. Well, it really shouldn’t be.
The simplest way to know everything on your end is to make a mock-up of the parcel you’ll be sending to your backers. If you’re getting ready to put a game on Kickstarter, chances are you’re already a gamer. So find in your collection (or better yet: purchase) a game that comes in the same size of box as the one you’re working on. Then, throw in equivalents of all the stuff your game will come with: boards, cards, and rules ransacked from other games. If you purchased a game, you won’t even have to scavenge for empty punchboards: simply throw the whole ones in.
Having done all this, put your game in an actual shipping carton, and get to weighing and measuring. This will give you data that is rather precise, which you can now use to make more than an estimation on how much a single game will cost you to ship.
3. Go beyond
There are many things easily forgotten when researching shipping prices, the first and foremost being the stretch goals. Simply put, if you’re planning to add some extra material to your game, make sure it’s in the shipping box you use as a basis from day one. A single cards will not influence the weight of your game, but a full deck (or a new punchboard) most certainly will.
Similarly, if you’re planning on adding content that you’re not putting inside the game box, make sure you have the space to pack it with the game inside your shipping carton – and make sure that it can be safe from harm. This might be the right time to re-evaluate those gorgeous but impossibly heavy play mats, and perhaps concede to something lighter or less prone to be damaged in shipping.
4. Seek professional help
There are many companies that can help you with fulfilment, and it’s often a great idea to make use of the services they provide. Spending a part of your budget on professionals who will help you navigate the perilous depths of customs and containers, or simply to all of the heavy lifting for you may be some of your best spent money. Just make sure to compare different offers, and keep your eye out on possible assembly cost.
As an alternative, you may also talk to your local postal services, as they might have better deals for people shipping in bulk. And “bulk” may turn out to be a reasonably low number even for a smaller Kickstarter campaign.
5. Be a pessimist
When it comes to Kickstarter being an insufferable pessimist can save you a lot of grief. Never assume that something will happen in the shortest possible time frame, account for piling delays – and make sure that you have some extra money saved for shipping.
So, when anything falls close to a border beyond which a parcel becomes more expansive, proceed as if it was already there. Yes, you may end up making a few bucks on the side when things don’t go south, but your backers will forgive you that extra dollar they paid for their game – while they might not be too accommodating towards the perspective of receiving their pledges with a huge delay, or never at all.
Let’s be honest, both the quality of your product, and the way you handle cvommunication with your backer are both essential. Fail in one of these departments, and you’ll probably end up with a cancelled or unsuccessful campaign. However, if you fail with shipping, you might end up in something much worse.
Kickstarter has seen its fair share of horror stories which start with a very successful project and end up with creators having to put themselves deep in debt, just to ship their product to backers. In most cases the extra cost incurred by shipping the game had a ruinous effect not only on their projects, but also on their lives.
So, while making mistakes during the project might make you end up with no game and a minor debt, it’s underestimating the shipping what can have a negative, lasting influence on a much bigger part of your life.